Thursday, September 20, 2007

Could the unique Citizens' Assembly process simply start over again if MMP loses on Oct 10th?

Thanks to Dalton McGuinty, Ontarians have a unique opportunity on October 10th to vote to modernize our electoral system.

The referendum on October 10th is the final step in a unique process of citizen-based, deliberative democracy that began with the Citizens' Assembly.

In Ontario, the Citizens' Assembly was a group of 103 ordinary Ontarians selected at random by Elections Ontario (one person from every riding in Ontario, plus chair George Thomson.) They were asked to take a very close look at our current First-Past-The-Post voting system and consider possible replacements.

After months of study, they decided that our First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system should be replaced with a made-in-Ontario form of Mixed Member Proportional (MMP).

The current voting system frequently produces legislatures that bear little resemblance to how people actually voted. For example, under our current voting system, it's not infrequent for a party which wins 45% of the popular vote on election day to end up with 60% to 70% of the seats in the legislature. Sometimes our current system even gives the second place party a victory! Furthermore, many votes cast under our current system are wasted as they have no impact on the make-up of the legislature.

The opportunity to change something as deeply rooted as our inherited, First-Past-The-Post system has been truly rare indeed. This is the first time since Confederation that Ontario voters have had the opportunity to change it.

The process leading up to this referendum was unique because it was citizen-driven. The proposed alternative system had to come from ordinary citizens, not politicians who are inherently biased.

That's why Dalton McGuinty, in his wisdom, set up the Citizens' Assembly. A set of principles governed their deliberations: Legitimacy; Fairness of Representation; Voter Choice; Effective Parties; Stable and Effective Government; Effective Parliament; Stronger Voter Participation; Accountability; and Simplicity and Practicality. Now the Citizens' Assembly's proposal is being put to voters.

To suggest that this unique process of citizen-driven reform can simply start over again at some point in the future and come up with a better alternative defies credibility. This randomly-chosen group of citizens, free of partisan bias, chose the Mixed Member Proportional proposal over our current system by a vote of 94 to 8.

More than likely, naysayers would view a defeat for MMP in this referendum as a mandate to keep First-Past-The-Post for the foreseeable future, despite their many admissions that the current system is inherently flawed.

Of course, we're betting that Ontarians will agree with us and vote for Mixed Member Proportional in overwhelming numbers on October 10th.

And Ontario will finally get rid of its archaic First-Past-The-Post system and enter a new era of more representative, accountable and effective government, where every vote counts.

No comments: